Monumentum, Spring 2013

‘I call architecture frozen music’, said Goethe. It’s an intriguing idea. We can all appreciate music almost from birth, for its innate mathematical structures, its proportion, depth and even colour. Music is the finest expression of our aural environment, transcending mere noise often with a rich emotional resonance. But beyond listening to it passively we can also get practically involved with it, and understanding and playing music brings us to another level: it allows us to unpack and manipulate one of life’s great mysteries with profound rewards. Architecture can similarly be appreciated at a basic level- it’s our human habitat, after all- but understanding its proportions, its form and volumes, myriad meanings and materials illumi - nates the everyday and enhances our discernment, teaching us how better to appreciate it. Then we can see that architecture is the finest expression of our built environment- and how it tran - scends mere building. Discernment is a rarefied skill that takes work. It may even be an unpopular word as we live in a world of fast and loud soundbites, one that is increasingly impatient of contemplation. Over seventy years ago T.S. Eliot asked a question for the IT age… ‘Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’ But discernment- a search for wisdom - isn’t elitism. It’s the opposite. Discernment enables us to appreciate and thereby become humble in acknowledgement of what is truly valuable, not for its cost but its contribution to humanity. Getting involved and learning more elevates us from consumers of property to engaged custodians of the historic environment: discernment puts fire in your belly to care. The opposite state is the ignorance that too often leads to destruction. And every time that happens, a little piece of frozen music is lost to us all.

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